The ancient practice of yoga has certainly evolved in 21st century to meet our long work days, seated behind a desk. Sitting for long periods places strain on the spine, mid and upper back, shortens the chest and hips, and can leave your neck, shoulders and lower back in pain. It may be hard to fit in a yoga class during a busy work day, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit motionless for hours on end. Try these 13 moves right at your desk to improve your posture and relieve stress.
Sit and stand chair pose
Begin by sitting with your knees bent at 90 degrees and your feet flat on the ground. Press your heels down, but do not move your feet closer to the chair. Now, without using your arms, lift your body into a standing position. From the standing position, slowly sit straight back down, refrain from leaning forward and from shifting the hips to one side or the other. Repeat five to ten times.
Sitting scale pose
This is a more advanced pose that requires a desk chair wide enough to accommodate the width of the body and placement of arms on each side of the seat. Sit at the edge of your chair, and press your hands down on either side of your hips. Now, using the strength in your arms, raise your legs and butt up off the seat. Engage the abdominal muscles and keep the tops of your shoulders down. Hold for five breaths. Lower your body and repeat two more times.
High altar pose
Inhale deeply and lift your arms. Clasp your hands and invert your palms. Now Lean to your left and hold for five to eight breaths. Repeat on your right side.
Seated crescent moon pose
Lift your arms overhead and stretch your fingers wide. Lean to the right, and take two to three deep breaths. Repeat on the left side for another two to three deep breaths.
Seated body twist
Turn to your left and place your left hand on the back of the chair to deepen the twist. Hold for five to eight breaths. Then repeat the twist on your right side.
Seated cow face
Bring your left arm behind your back and your right arm behind your head. Now clasp your fingers if you can. If you can’t clasp your fingers, then work towards moving them closer each day. Hold for five to eight breaths and switch sides.
Sitting ankle to knee
Place your left foot on your right knee, allowing your left knee to drop open. Keep your back straight and lean forward into a deep stretch. Hold for five to eight breaths and then switch sides.
Seated wrist and finger stretches
Complete these stretches every two hours to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Place the hands one on your desk, palms facing up and fingers towards you, putting gentle pressure to counter stretch the wrist and the forearm. You can also stretch each arm out and bend the wrist inward then outward, counter stretching with your other hand. Hold each side five to ten breaths.
- Extend the arms to the sides or overhead and draw ten circles inward and outward through the wrists. Next, quickly spread the fingers and close the fists. Repeat this ten times to shake off any excess tension.
Seated pigeon pose
While seated in your chair, with both feet flat on the floor, cross your right leg over the left at a 90-degree angle, keeping the foot flexed to not place pressure on the knee. Maintain equal weight distribution between the sitting bones while staying in an upright seated position. You should feel a gentle to moderate stretch on the outermost part of the right thigh. Hold for ten breaths before switching sides.
Standing yoga push-ups
Place your hands about shoulder width distance on the edge of a sturdy desk. Now step your feet back so that your torso is diagonal to the floor. Keep your feet firmly placed and inhale as you bend the elbows to a 90-degree angle. Keep the elbows hugged in towards the ribs. Exhale and press your chest back up to the starting position. Repeat 12 times.
Standing upward dog pose
Follow the above standing desk pushups with this upward dog pose. Remain in the same position as you did for the standing yoga push up. With your arms straight, lower your hips toward the desk, refraining from sinking in the lower back by using the strength in your legs. Stretch your chest between your shoulders and gently tilt your chin upwards while sliding the shoulder blades down the back. Hold for ten breaths.
Standing plank pose
Use your desk to support this spine-lengthening and hamstring-stretching pose. Place your hands shoulder-width apart or wider at the desk edge. Step your feet back until your feet are directly under your hips. Hold ten breaths to allow this pose to help you undo all the negative effects of sitting.
Standing forward bend
Stand next to your desk, with feet firmly on the ground. Bend over in half with soft knees and let gravity take over. Hold for at least 20 seconds and sway gently from side to side if it feels good. Allowing your arms and head to hang forward, let your neck and shoulders decompress. Plus, reversing the blood flow will give you extra energy to complete your work day.
Sitting at a desk all day doesn’t have to turn you into Quasimodo. A few feel-good yoga poses and stretches will do wonders for your energy level, tension, posture and confidence!
— Katherine Marko